On crisis

There is nothing good about this Corona crisis. There is nothing good about any crisis. But as CNN’s Chris Cuomo said this week, “Hard times make tough people.”

The heroes are everyone. Everyone who is coming together and putting their shoulders to the wheel in this fight. Dealing with the disruptions to their lives and handling the fears for their futures. While only 20% of those infected by Corona will show any symptoms at all, the speed and determination that all Canadians have shown in coming together and changing their lives to protect the vulnerable — particularly our seniors — is a rare example of grit and unselfishness.

Hard times, toughened people. That’s a good thing.

But this crisis has also produced — here in Quebec — an example of how to lead in a crisis. And that is a rare thing. Premier Legault is due some recognition.

Nothing is harder in life — political or private — than taking hard decisions and saying those things that people need to know but don’t want to hear. And sometimes taking decisions for others own good. Premier Legault had complained of Federal inaction for several weeks. When he saw nothing was forthcoming, he took action himself.

Hard times, tough decisions. But we have rarely received so many messages praising a Premier. One message was most telling. “I just saw Premier Legault’s press conference. I was proud of a Quebec leader. I can’t remember the last time I felt like that.”

Premier Legault stepped up to the plate and despite Ottawa’s inaction he did so without rancour or laying blame. Throughout the past week of crisis, he has set the right tone and demeanour. He surveyed what other jurisdictions had done and he adopted the best practices. And when he realized that some of his decisions needed adjustment, he did so immediately and without excuses. It has been a display of much-needed leadership. And he is balancing action with awareness of the potential negative economic consequences and has delayed tax filing deadlines from April 30 to June 1.

He closed the schools, cegeps and universities. He ordered daycares shut down. And when he realized that our front-line professionals in health and security services needed somewhere to leave their kids if they were to continue their vital work, he came up with a creative solution and selected some of the schools he had just ordered closed to be used as childcare facilities.

As in so many other jurisdictions, he ordered places “where people gather” to be closed in order to help mitigate the spread of Covid-19. He closed bars, movie theaters, pools, gyms and ski resorts. But realizing that life can’t be stopped completely, he came up with another creative solution to restaurants saying they could stay open but urging them to reduce space usage so that patrons could have the requisite 2 metres of space between them.

He ordered an end to visitors and caregivers to seniors in chronic care. But when it was brought to his attention that there weren’t enough nurses and that seniors were suffering not seeing their children, he quickly ordered new protocols that will soon be issued. When the 811 system was failing because of the number of calls he quickly acted around the bureaucracy and set up a new one. 1.877.644.4545. And he pushed the system to go from 1,000 tests a day to 6,000.

Premier Legault has led with efficiency, commitment and balance. He has not let dogma or ego get in the way of public service. And he has led with compassion. He announced a $50 million fund for people laid off due to Corona. Details are to be announced.

He knows he is taking hard and sometimes unpopular decisions. But his authenticity comes through and he is acquiring a whole new segment of admirers.

Hard times, needed leadership. Chapeau M. Legault.

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